DARKE COUNTY — Local first responders received welcome news during the Monday meeting of the Darke County Board of Commissioners.
Mindy Saylor, Darke County EMA director, told the commissioners that the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) will provide the county with used MARCS (Multi Agency Radio Communication Service) portable and mobile radios.
“This is an amazing partnership with ODNR,” she said, noting that the agency, under a Memorandum of Understanding, will provide the county with approximately 180 portable units and 106 mobile units.
The handover of the radios will allow unified communications among all Darke County first responders, including the Sheriff’s Office, police departments, fire and rescue services. It will also ease communications with emergency services in surrounding counties, all of whom are now MARCS compatible.
ODNR is providing the MARCS radios to the county free of charge. However, the county will still be responsible for paying a $10 per month user fee to operate each radio.
Nonetheless, Saylor estimated the county will save approximately $650,000 by accepting the used radios versus buying new units.
Darke County Sheriff Chief Deputy Mark Whittaker was pleased with the news.
“The way I see it, it bought the county five years. Financially speaking, it gets the county off the hook,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with the older radios other than they need to be reprogrammed.”
The county is still awaiting completion of a 180-foot tall MARCS radio tower in Union City, Ohio, which will provide full countywide coverage for MARCS users. Whittaker said the tower is expected to be operational by June 30.
ODNR’s donation comes on the heels of news in March that the State Fire Marshal had granted Darke County fire departments more than $600,000 in grant money to upgrade to the MARCS system.